Bow River Still Running High, Plenty of Wildflowers in Bloom

A short break in the persistent June rain prompted us to head outside this morning for a short walk along the Riverside Trail in east Canmore. The first part of our short trek paralleled Three Sisters Creek, which is running at a much higher volume compared to two weeks ago. It’s clear that melting snowpack is exacerbating the already high water levels on account of all the rain. In fact, we discovered another small (unofficial) footbridge over Three Sisters Creek washed out some time over the last couple weeks.

Descending towards the Bow River, we paused at an overlook long enough to conclude the Bow River is also running at a higher volume that it was two weeks ago. Closer to the water, we had a hard time deciding whether some of the patches of shrubs poking up from the dirty water belong to the north bank of the river or to “Mantracker Island”, which is now mostly underwater. This panorama (four photos taken right at the shoreline of the Bow River and stitched together using Microsoft’s free ICE utility) gives a sense of how heavy and low the clouds sat over the Bow Valley…

Trees in the river
Shrubs, aspen, spruce, shrubs and other small trees are all in danger of washing away under the relentless pressure of the fast-flowing Bow River.

At several spots, the water edged within a meter or two of the Riverside Trail. Despite the generally soggy conditions, we spotted lots of wild flowers in bloom: tiny round-leaf orchids, bunchberries, wild strawberries and scarlet paintbrush were particularly noticeable today. We also spotted a few Western Wood Lilies, which seem to be harder to find each year.

Western Wood Lily

Scarlet Paintbrush

All the rain this spring also means there are plenty of interesting vegetation layers sprouting at ground level, including lots of mosses and mushrooms.

Vegetation on a decomposing log

With so much snowpack still blanketing the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, it will likely be several weeks before creek and river volumes subside. In addition to high water level hazards, anyone enjoying some time in Canmore is also advised to bike, walk or hike in a large group and to make lots of noise on the trail: Grizzly Bear #105 and her cubs are travelling in the Canmore area and have been spotted as far east as Dead Man’s Flats. So carry bear spray, be Wildsmart and stay safe out there!

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